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Cardamine pratensis L.

Cuckoo flower, lady’s smock, bitter cress

KingdomPlantaePlants, but not fungi, lichens, or algae
SubkingdomTracheobiontaVascular plants—plants with a “circulatory system” for delivering water and nutrients
DivisionMagnoliophytaFlowering plants, also known as angiosperms
ClassMagnoliopsidaDicotyledons—plants with two initial seed leaves
SubclassRosidaeRoses, legumes, proteas, dogwoods, hydrangeas, mistletoes, euphorbias, grapes, many more
OrderBrassicalesMustard, cabbage, caper, papaya, nasturtiums, many others; most produce mustard oil
FamilyBrassicaceaeMustards, cabbages
GenusCardamineBittercress (also called Dentaria)—from the Greek kardamon, an herb with pungent leaves
SpeciespratensisGrowing in meadows

About plant names...

English herbalist John Gerard (1545-1612), in his nearly 1500-page book Herball, or Generall Historie of Plantes, explained the rather curious common name “cuckoo flower” as follows: “These floure for the most part in Aprill and May, when the Cuckow begins to sing her pleasant notes without stammering.” (This was in the Bristish Isles.) Cuckoo flowers prefer disturbed rich, moist to wet, well-drained soils, in partial or deep shade. Habitats include floodplains, woods, swamps, fields, meadows, shores, grasslands and ditches.

Plants: Plants are 16-24" (40-60 cm) high.

Leaves: Pinnate, 1¾-4½" (5-12 cm) long, with leaflets about ⅜" (1 cm) in size. Leaves are alternate, sometimes toothed.

Flowers: In a spike at the top of the plant, 4-12" (10-30 cm) in height. Pale pink, white, or pale blue to purple. Each flower is ⅜-¾" (1-2 cm) in diameter, with four rounded petals and six stamens. Petals are typically notched in the middle.

Fruits: Fruits are slender and straight, ⅝-1¾" (1.6-5 cm) long.

Edibility: Leaves are edible, sometimes used in salads.

Online References:

Cardamine pratensis at the Missouri Botanical Garden

Cardamine pratensis at Minnesota Wildflowers

Cardamine pratensis on gobotany.nativeplanttrust.org

Cardamine pratensis on Wikipedia

Cardamine pratensis on www.first-nature.com

Cardamine pratensis on michiganflora.net

Cardamine pratensis (cuckoo flower, lady’s smock, bitter cress)

5/7/2012 · Nashua River Rail Trail, Groton Center, Groton, Mass­a­chu­setts
≈ 9 × 11" (21 × 27 cm)

Cardamine pratensis (cuckoo flower, lady’s smock, bitter cress)

5/4/2017 · Nashua River Rail Trail, Groton Center, Groton, Mass­a­chu­setts
≈ 4 × 4" (10 × 10 cm)

Cardamine pratensis (cuckoo flower, lady’s smock, bitter cress)

5/7/2012 · Nashua River Rail Trail, Groton Center, Groton, Mass­a­chu­setts
≈ 12 × 19" (31 × 48 cm)

 

Cardamine pratensis description by Thomas H. Kent, last updated 25 Aug 2021.

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Cardamine pratensis (cuckoo flower, lady’s smock, bitter cress)

5/18/2021 · Cathance River Nature Preserve, Topsham, Maine
≈ 2½ × 3" (7.2 × 7.8 cm)

Cardamine pratensis (cuckoo flower, lady’s smock, bitter cress)

5/7/2012 · Nashua River Rail Trail, Groton Center, Groton, Mass­a­chu­setts
≈ 6 × 5" (14 × 13 cm)

Cardamine pratensis (cuckoo flower, lady’s smock, bitter cress)

5/18/2021 · Cathance River Nature Preserve, Topsham, Maine
≈ 3½ × 3½" (8.9 × 9.5 cm)

Cardamine pratensis (cuckoo flower, lady’s smock, bitter cress)

5/4/2017 · Nashua River Rail Trail, Groton Center, Groton, Mass­a­chu­setts
≈ 4½ × 4½" (11 × 11 cm)

Cardamine pratensis (cuckoo flower, lady’s smock, bitter cress)

5/7/2012 · Nashua River Rail Trail, Groton Center, Groton, Mass­a­chu­setts
≈ 29 × 25" (74 × 64 cm)

Range: Zones 3-7:

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